Cover image for post Abject "sponsored link" practice on PHPFreaks (update -2-)

Abject "sponsored link" practice on PHPFreaks (update -2-)

Update -2- (Jan 20th 2005, 13:45):

I still recieve lot's of comments on this issue, which all have basically the same content, affirming my opinion. The most common sense is, that abusing the content created by somebody else to put ads into it (in the way it is done, by modifying the content) is a real shame and has to be considered equal with spam. Today an anonymouse reader pointed out, that they actually violate the OPL, under which the PHP manual is provided. The OPL says "The modified version must be labeled as such." and "The person making the modifications must be identified and the modifications dated.". Both points seem not being fulfilled on that site.

Other commentors pointed out to me, that the freaks also link the word "Perl" to their hosting service. Maybe this is interessting to peoplei of the Perl community?

Anyway, thanks for everyone who added an affirmation and showed to this strange freaks, that their ad practices are despicable. If you want to raise your opinion, please don't hesitate to add a comment here!

Update (Jan 17th 2005, 13:45):

Many people replied to my article, so I feel I should post an update. Thanks for everyone who stated his opinion so far.

Today I saw that actually changed the links on the word PHP to point to their start page and now link the word hosting to their webspace provider. At least, this does not harm my PHP evangelism feelings that much anymore. Anyway, the difference between ad and content is still not clear at all. Pretty many people (compared to the usual comment traffic on my blog) already claimed their support against this kind of ads here.

Most funnily even aggregated this article through an indirection of While I like getting aggregated on sites like, and so on quite much, I strongly discourage that my content is reused by this phpfreaks page. Sorry guys, I do not permit you any longer to use my words for your advertisements.

Do you have an opinion on this? Please leave a comment here!

Original (Jan 12th 2005, 19:06):

As Vidyut pointed out, seems to automatically create a link everywhere on their website, where the word "PHP" appears. They do this even in user comments. Apparently this seems to be a nice service, if the link would direct you to (or maybe some explaination page or something). But instead they link to some hosting provider which supports PHP (what also well known as a "sponsored link").

I have to admit that this is one of the largest brazennesses I every saw. Beside that, it's absolutely frowned upon in journalism circles (even the famous German "Bild-Zeitung" does not do advertisment in such a abject way, also they are wellknown for borderlining adverts) and in many states even completly illegal.

You should really feel ashame, you strange PHPFreaks!


I don't see it necessary to blast us with an article of your site because we link of to relevant services. is our dedicated server company which is owned by The Web Freaks and also provides the revenue required to run The Web Freaks sites such as PHPFreaks, LinuxForum and such. Unfortunately, we attemped the "Donate" to us links but the people in these communities do not donate and we have to find funding to keep our sites open, when they use a helluva lot of bandwidth and server power. Therefore, if you also notice, any word on the site that's a PHP function takes you to the PHP manual for that function. I don't see you complaining about that. Just as the various words built into our articles and tutorials take you to relevant advertising -- not junk like other sites do. Unfortunately again, yes we have banners on our sites. But people are immune to those as well. Therefore, we have to advertise our services in a way that will get people's attention -- much like it did for you here -- and hopefully they will consider our services and untlimately contribute back to our communities. We're a company, we're not some webmaster sitting at home in his underwear building websites. We have to earn revenue to keep the sites open. Simple.

Also, 45,000 unique visitors per day and this is the second complaint, which is a "bandwagon" complaint in my opinion, since someone else started it and you probably needed content for your website, sow hat the heck?


phpfreak at 2006-01-15

I know I should not reply to this again, but sorry, your reply even makes me more angry. So, here we go:

Sadly I have no remedy to force you to remove this kind of advertisement. But I'm quite sure, that if you reconsider it carefully I'm sure you will see how much harm you do yourself by using such. Although people might not state their opinion as loud as I'm doing it, I'm sure there are lots of people anoyed by your abuse of the term PHP. At least the community people who build PHP.

Toby at 2006-01-15

Let me see here. People syndicate word advertisments via Google. These are third party marketing campaigns from unknown providers.

Let me see here. is TWF owned and operated, established to help keep heavily trafficked communities online and you sit there and complain about it?

How foolish you look.

tlcoffee at 2006-01-15

The point is, that one should be able to clearly determine, what is content and what is advertisement, not the advertisement at all. Making adverts look like content is like sending spam. Especially if one makes that for even user supplied comments.

Toby at 2006-01-15

Ok, that's called "Status Bar" or "Title Text" in the link. Before I click on a link to anywhere, I look down in the bottom left portion of my browser and see where the link goes. If its going to somewhere I know, or looks legit, then I click it. Also, if the "Title" text says "PHP Web Hosting" then I know its an ad. We've always used title text.

Also, for a Zend Ceritfied Engineer, I'm sad to say that your quotes "" are broken in the boards.

Regards, -phpfreak

phpfreak at 2006-01-15

And..... whats up with all the question marks on your site? They take me to takes me to a 404. I'd much rather see an advertisement than a 404!

phpfreak at 2006-01-15

Nice that you try making this to a personal fight. Anyway I will not comment on this any more. My opinion is stated quite clear multiple times here. If it does not fit you, ignore me or do whatever you like. :)

Toby at 2006-01-15

Sorry, I did not want to shut down anybody, but while playing with the sources last night, it seems I broke the CAPTCHA. Since I notices, I deactivated them for now.

Toby at 2006-01-16

I think toby is absoulte right here. The user should always be able to see what is advertisement, and what is not.

For sure there are some users who have a look at the status bar before clicking on a link, but this doesn't matter. A user expects some relevant information on PHP, when he clicks on link named "PHP", and not a hosting company. It makes me think, that you are trying to fool the user by intention. (You may say that this is the intention of all advertising out there - but it persists wrong).

In germany we have a law for all media, that advertisement must be obviously cognizable by the viewer. And I think this is the only right way. Of course you get less hits - but this would be the right way to do it.

Kore at 2006-01-16

I do agree to Toby and Kore, adverts should always be cognizable as what they are. A hidden link pointing to a sponsor or to something else the user couldn't expect behind the link is, from my point of view, a kind of fair swindle.

Peter at 2006-01-16

I must full agree and cannot understand why the hosting costs are the reason. Regardless the fact that mixing advertisement and content is evil i see no sense in that advertising approach. Because why should someone be more interrested in that service only because he is tricked by the page? I think it will also have the same effect if you make a big banner blinking at the top of the page advertising your service.

Tobias at 2006-01-16

In my Opinion, those advertising can't be serious. I want mor informations on PHP when i click on links that are with the word PHP. Some information like "sponsored link" would make it easier to make a descision whether to click or not.

just my 2 cents

J?rg at 2006-01-16

Your website is your castle. I have no business telling someone else where to link to and where not to link to.

However when you take my content ( and put ads in that, then that is when it becomes my problem.

And please don't say that you need the ads to make up for the bandwidth costs of serving the pages which the ads are on. If you don't want the cost of serving up my content, then don't serve aggregated content.

If your regular visitors don't value the site enough to help pitch in to cover the costs, and you can no longer cover the costs out of your own pocket, then I would sincerely consider shutting yourself down. What's the point of running a useless site?

Aaron Wormus at 2006-01-16

I do agree with toby and kore. I fully understand that advertisments are needed to help financing such projects. But I want to know what is an advertisment and what isn't. Clicking on a link with the word php I expect more information about php. As J?rg suggested it would be acceptable to add some information like "sponsored" or "advertisment".

Jakob at 2006-01-16

i don't think this style of advertising will help anyone.

it is annoying for an experienced user who expect something useful behind a link inside of content.

it is confusing for an unexperienced user because some of them don't understand the concept of external links and wonder why the page they viewed is gone even if the advertising opens in a new window.

some pages use this advertising concept with external links and tooltips. for example: this ist really annoying cause the tooltips fire instantly if they receive a mouseover. it disturbs copy pasting, uses javascript and consume bandwidth for nothing.

most people wont click these links twice, some people (like me) will stop visiting such a site.

in my opinion this kind of advertising, popup/popunder advertising and div overlay advertising is something the web doesn't need.

mfg michael

michael wiese at 2006-01-16

Seems my complains helped a bit in a way. I recently noticed, that the word "PHP" now links to itself and the word "hosting" is linked to the hosting provided. Although it still changes content provided by other people ( for example me: ), this linking makes sense in a way and does not "fake" the user to click on the advertisements.

Toby at 2006-01-17 does this too.

Sebastian at 2006-01-17

Then it sucks there, too. :)

Toby at 2006-01-17

Mr. Freak, Since Toby's site get more traffic and comments than I do.. please go read the comments on his site. The problem is not with Ads. I don't have an issue with the ads you have placed on the top and right hand corner of the site. Everyone needs to, hell if you buy any of the books on the right hand side, I get money. My problem is with how you are placing ads under the word PHP. Add to that, the fact that you added ads in my comments to your post. The fact that your links are polluting search engines by having the word "PHP" linked to is what I have a problem with. If you were to put double underlines or any other way of denoting that those links are ads (nofollow) etc. I'd be less perturbed.

Vidyut Luther at 2006-01-18

It appears that they also link the word 'Perl' to ''. I can only imagine the other linking they are doing.

I believe they are on thin legal ground considering they make these changes within the PHP manual and the other manuals they 'host'.

at 2006-01-19

Tobias, thanks for the interesting discussion. I totally agree that this form of linking/ advertising is very annoying, confusing and/or bad. For me, as an experienced user, they are: - annoying, because if I read a 'serious' article I expect links to point to other relevant content. - wrong, because of the search engine spamming For less experienced users they probably are very confusing (as michael points out).

But that's from the users point of view. Seen from the point of view from the site owner and its advertisers, I wonder: what's the point of tricking me to - unvoluntarily - click on ads? Why? Why would you want to have all those annoyed visitors on your site?

If I were a paying advertiser, I would not like to pay for all those clicks!

But I could be wrong. Maybe this form of advertising does work for the advertisers. It's probably the same as with email spam - unfortunately - people do in fact click on those spam messages and do in fact buy cheap you-know-what.

And, as in this case phpfreak points out, for a commercial website it's all about the money. Writing this, I'm thinking: if you really need to have more income and the only way is getting clicks on ads, why not force every visitor to click on an ad before he/she is able to view the website :) Like, "you haven't yet visited one of our sponsors today. Please click on this ad first". That would be annoying as hell, but at least you know in advance what's going on, instead of ending up on a advertisers site unexpected.

Matthijs at 2006-01-19

They also appear to be linking the word e-mail to their parent company. Even the fact that the word PHP currently leads to the front page of the site is very confusing and misleading. Commonly inline links are used to refrence people to more information about whatever they are reading, and as such it is incredibly misleading to the user to end up in some hosting site while looking for more information about what they were just reading. There are many ways to resolve this issue, some that would probably not affect advertising revenue too adversly. Perhaps you could try associating an image with offsite adds, much like the one wikipedia uses to link offsite, you could display a little dollar sign next to your inline adds? Maybe they could be a diffrent color, or maybe just double underlined? This is bordering on the smartwords thing microsoft was trying to do a few years ago, you are attemption to profit by modifing other peoples work for your direct benifit without their express permission. It's a shame to see a site as involved in the PHP community as PHPFreaks to go down this road.

Ian McCarthy at 2006-01-19

As a followup to this. It appears they are in violation of the OPL, atleast for the PHP manual.

"The modified version must be labeled as such."

They do not label their version as modified.

"The person making the modifications must be identified and the modifications dated."

Not done.

at 2006-01-20

Yes, I think you are right. This would propably be a way for the PHP group to force those people to stop this bullshit. Although I (sadly) doubt the PHP group cares much.

Toby at 2006-01-20

Would be nice for them to fix perl to go to the better place.

Jacques Marneweck at 2006-01-20

LOL, I asume they would only link it to their own URL, as they did with PHP after I complained.

Toby at 2006-01-20

Wow what an interesting discussion. :)

But I share toby's oppinion: An user should be able to see if a link is an advertisment or a "regular link".

It's a bit like phishing when you link ads on words where the user do not expect it.

just my 2 cents,


Marc at 2006-01-23

Regardless of intent, it's a deceptive practise, plain and simple. That should be enough reason not to do it.

Remember the IE "Smart Tags"? If it's not okay for IE to do it - and it isn't - it's not okay for someone else to do it either.

Mary at 2006-01-23